It’s the test of any girlfriend relationship: the vacation without husbands or kids or other friends to cushion the shock of twenty-four hours together. On the ocean. In a cabin. For seven days.
A cruise to Alaska was something Cindy and I wanted to do, so when we saw a great offer, we plotted and planned and prevailed upon our hubbies. We positioned it as the perfect Christmas gift. Done.
We landed an incredible cabin upgrade with they don’t let just anybody in here privileges throughout our voyage. We were blessed with spacious digs, attentive staff, and a week of luxury we will not soon forget. Fabulous meals, beautiful ports to visit, and the chance to meet some interesting people.
But how did the friendship and all that togetherness pan out?
We are created with the need for relationship. Read Genesis. We are made in the image of the Lord—and He made us for fellowship. He showed up each evening to hang out with Adam and Eve. The need for connection is strong.
Girlfriendships, however, even for Christian women, have historically been challenging. “Am I her favorite friend? Does she like me best?” It started in third grade, when the teacher introduced a new girl to the class. We eyed her nervously, concerned that she might displace us in the heart of our bestie. We had worked hard for that position, won it, and would protect it fiercely. Step back, newbie. She’s mine.
News flash, ladies. We may be adults, but we’re just taller third graders today. Women still compete for that top spot in one another’s lives. And the enemy will try to use these relationship needs against us if we’re not careful. It often begins with pettiness, a slight that blossoms into hurt, and sometimes ends with a broken relationship and a wounded heart.
I am blessed to say it’s something Cindy and I have not struggled with.
She and I are an unlikely twosome. We’ve realized over the years, that we have very little in common. We are wired differently, we like different things, and we even think differently; our needs and preferences are not similar. In other words, we are an odd couple. We’ve discussed our relationship over the years and examined the gift of presence we enjoy in one another’s life. That we ever navigated our relationship to the level of importance it holds in our lives is somewhat surprising. That awareness still surprises us on occasion.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t compatible.
How did we connect? At church – no big shocker there. Both Californians now living in Texas. Well, that’s helpful. About the same age, married similar lengths of time, with adult children and grandsons. More in common, but it pretty much ends there, except for this: we love God and our families fiercely. And that may be our ‘glue.’ Even that is not the most important, however.
We’ve discovered some very specific components of our successful connection. Here are the secrets that make our relationship healthy and consistent.
- We do not compete. With one another or for one another’s affection, time, and that elusive top spot in one another’s life. We’re never fearful that the other is “cheating” on us with other friends. We have other friends. Close friends. Women who are important to us. And we are grateful for each of them: colleagues, neighbors, quilting buddies, and writing partners. Because we don’t compete, Cindy and I can serve as champions and cheerleaders for one another, each genuinely celebrating the other’s success. Everyone needs a cheerleader.
- Breathing room is important. We don’t get to spend as much time together as we might like. Work and family responsibilities dictate our schedules most often. We text, we phone (not frequently), and we do life together, just not always in the same room—or even the same state. There were times on the cruise we each needed some alone time and took it unapologetically. A solo walk or a movie when the other read or napped–without the other being hurt, or asking, “Is everything okay between us?”
We don’t live in one another’s pockets. We can’t. And maybe that, too, is a gift. But if we need one another—for any reason, day or night—we are available and fully present.
- We maintain confidences shared. Did you ever consider the word confidence? It means both an assurance and information privately disclosed. You need assurance the information you’ve shared privately stays private. Cindy and I have confided in one another knowing it’s “in the vault.” Trusted. No judgment. A great gift from the Lord. And I hate to say it, ladies, but this is an area in which we let one another down at times. Knowing a secret is heady stuff; it says, “She trusts me. I’m special!” It’s so tempting to share a tidbit or drop a hint under the guise of a concern or at worst, a prayer request. It’s our evidence that “she likes me best.” We must not use the confidence she shared to reinforce (or boast about) our importance in her life.
- Our expectations align with God’s Word. She doesn’t need me to provide what only God can deliver. I haven’t made her the center of my emotional well-being – that’s the job of the Lord alone. I remember times as a younger woman when I felt lonely, or needed an answer or encouragement and turned to my bestie instead of God. Not in addition to God, not “would you pray with me about this,” but instead of God. If we get that one mixed up, it’s always a quick trip to trouble.
That doesn’t mean we don’t rely on each other. We do—for companionship, truth telling when needed, mercy (always needed), and the joy that comes in experiencing life with one who cares for you and the people you love. I can count on her to sharpen me, challenge me, and pray for me. She can depend on me for the same.
- Learn from one another. The Scriptures are clear that believers are to play a vital role in one another’s lives as developer, example, and encourager, to name a few. Iron is intended to sharpen iron, and while it may be uncomfortable, whom better to submit to in that process than a dear girlfriend? Someone who loves you, won’t compete with you, keeps your confidences, and gives you a little breathing room?
The girlfriend who meets that description is trustworthy. Her motives are never suspect, always with purest intent, and designed for our good. I am grateful for what she’s taught me, and I think Cindy would say the same. I’m a bit (I said a bit!) more merciful thanks to her, and she has learned to speak her mind more freely—because we believe part of our relationship responsibility is to help the other be all God wants her to be.
As grown up girls, we are blessed when we are instructed to put away the childish things. I’d like to have the energy and youthfulness I had in third grade. Maybe the calorie burning ability of days spent playing hopscotch and tetherball. But I’ll take grown up God-given relationships over those schoolyard alliances any day!